Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Why Captain Wentworth is a Superior Example of Manhood

If you've been reading my blog for a long time, you may be surprised at the title of this post.  Many of you will know that Captain Wentworth is far from my favorite Jane Austen hero, and I've never actually had much of a fondness for him.

I do wonder how much of this might be due to two facts:
1) I don't care for any of the movie portrayals of him.
2) In the book there is really very little time to get to know him. We see his actions, but we can't get into his mind at all until he finally opens up to Anne again, which is at nearly the end.

Also, I wonder what Persuasion would have ended up like if Jane Austen had lived to see it published.  She wasn't necessarily ready for it to be published yet.  She was becoming too ill to even work on her newest story idea, much less the tedious task of in-depth editing of what was probably equal to a second draft.

But I'm going off on a rabbit trail here.  Frederick Wentworth is the subject at hand.

The fact is, the more I see of life, I realize just how accurate Anne's assessment of men is in chapter 23.

I should deserve utter contempt if I dared to suppose that true attachment and constancy were known only by woman.  No, I believe you capable of everything great and good in your married lives.  I believe you equal to every important exertion, and to every domestic forbearance, so long as--if I may be allowed the expression--so long as you have an object.  I mean while the woman you love lives, and lives for you.  All the privilege I claim for my own sex (it is not a very enviable one; you need not covet it), is that of loving longest, when existence or when hope is gone.

One thing that I feel I must have in a relationship is my beloved feeling that he would not be happy with anybody besides me.  This is extremely rare among men.  Their emotions only seem engaged if the person is living and present before them.  And, in fact, when they lose a sweetheart/fiancee/wife, they shortly find that the apparent way to solve the problem of their sadness is to fill the void with some other woman. (Hi, Captain Benwick.)

I have to admit, that kind of disgusts me.  There is the rare exception... but honestly, all the exceptions I keep thinking of are fictional, so... I'm just going to leave that right there.

(And yes, I am aware that Captain Wentworth is fictional too. Be quiet.)

But he didn't do that.  It had been eight years, and Captain Wentworth had not once been interested in another woman (because "a man does not recover from such a devotion of the heart to such a woman! He ought not--he does not.").  He had kind of a funny way of showing this... totally ignoring Anne and actually flirting with other girls and pretending like he was interested in them.

I was thinking about that a little more in depth, though.  For the first time, I put myself in his place.  Imagine being engaged to someone who was completely devoted to you, and then they change their mind because their snobby family thinks you're not good enough?  I can't excuse him for how he acted upon meeting Anne again... he should not have snubbed her as he did.  But I don't know if I can blame him for at least a lot of his behavior.

As to him flirting with other girls, I do blame him; but still I cannot condemn him.  After all, many women pull the exact same trick of trying to show their "ex" that they can live perfectly well without them.  She broke up with him because he wasn't good enough, and his pride was wounded.

Again, I'm not excusing him.  I'm just understanding him a little better... and forgiving him a little more, because he really is a superior example of manhood.  He was constant and he was true.  He was chivalrous and he had a good heart.  And in the end, he forgave Anne who (although she suffered equally) had caused him a lot of pain and heartache.

(Captain Harville also, it would seem, appears to be superior.  Although in the book he never had a reason to demonstrate that he could practice what he preached, he was terribly disturbed by Benwick's quick switch in affections, and a man who is likely to do that himself is not likely to be disturbed when other people do.)


Anonymous said...

Very thought provoking post. I was wondering exactly what you meant by: "when they lose a sweetheart/fiancee/wife, they shortly find that the apparent way to solve the problem of their sadness is to fill the void with some other woman." Are you saying that if a man is widowed, for example, he should not be allowed to find happiness with another woman? I can't say I agree with that. Or are you more talking about when a couple breaks up, the guy tends to quickly moves on with someone else. I can understand being disgusted with that, as that happens far too often. I also think, however, that men are a bit better at giving the appearance of moving on. I think it has a lot to do with males being taught to bottle their emotions. Outwardly, they may appear to have moved on but who really knows what's going on inwardly?

Miss Evie said...

Interesting and thought provoking post Melody! :-D

Rae said...

I absolutely adore Captain Wentworth! I'd say he is definitely one of my favourite literary heroes. I admire so much that he stayed true to Anne all those years, and while we don't get to know him much, true, there are several small things throughout the book that just touch my heart. Little things he does and says that mean more than they seem to. I agree that he is a superior example of manhood.

jessica prescott said...

Great post, Melody! Captain Wentworth is the best.

Well, except for Colonel Brandon, who really IS the best. :-) But he's second-best, at least, anyway. I've always loved him, and I always will.

I can't really agree with you about guys moving on too quickly, though. I do agree, of course, that there are SOME guys who do that, but there are plenty of women who do the same . . . Plus, ultimately, being able to move on at some point is healthy, I think--I mean, if the person you love has died, eventually it's okay to find someone else.

(I sure HOPE it is, anyways; because I'm currently writing a novel where *spoilers* both the guy and the girl have lost their fiances and they both have to learn to move on.)

Miss Dashwood said...

*Laura Ingalls voice* "Oh. Well... I guess I never really THOUGHT about it THAT way before."

Seriously though, good post. :D Supposably (HAHAHAHAHAHA ARE YOU CRINGING) guys take statistically longer to get over a breakup than women do... I've read that in a few different places. Howeverrrrr that doesn't necessarily apply to twue wuv. So.

Anyways, nice points about Captain Wentworth. He still ain't no Mr. Knightley though. Heh heh heh. That is to say, I ADMIRE him very much, but I don't LIKE him as much as my Favorite. :D

Miss Dashwood said...

Also - I think presentsofthepast has a good point about men tending to bottle their emotions. Women DO tend to be more vocal about such things in general.


Miss Evie said...

Yesss Colonel Brandon!

Melody said...

Well, I purposely didn't go into too much detail there, because I didn't want the post to turn into a rant. ;) Your second supposition is definitely more correct. I was speaking even more in terms of men who have been engaged, or very serious about, or married to, a woman and then she dies. They tend to remarry shockingly quickly and seem to think they just can't live without having a woman. Even if they're old and have spent nearly a lifetime together! And cases like Benwick are very common in real life, I find.

I don't always condemn second marriages-- I'm not quite Marianne Dashwood. ;) I do, however, think that the circumstances should be special, and I don't like it when I see a man (or a woman, but I see it more often with men) who acted like their wife was the love of their life, get lonely or want another woman to take care of their children so they actively go out and seek someone. I mean, if it was me, and I'd been in love with someone enough to marry them, the last thing I would do is look for another husband!

Basically my view on second marriages are actually similar to on first ones... it should happen naturally, and you shouldn't marry the person unless you feel like you could not possibly live happily without that That One. ;)

Is giving an outward appearance of moving on the same to you as carrying on with another woman? Because I'm not saying that someone after a breakup or a death needs to act like their wallowing in sorrow all the time. (Although I think it's very sad that men are taught to bottle their emotions!)

Miss Evie,
Thanks! I think... I'm not sure I meant it to be VERY thought-provoking as some as you have been taking it! ;) Hopefully in a good way.

Yes, I agree about the little things, and when I think of them, I know I often give the dear man too little credit. :)

Jessica P,
Colonel Brandon is the other one I feel I don't know very well! ;)
I'm talking about guys having a shocking lack of sentiment and even respect... and having the attitude of "okay, onto the next!" (I mean, there are men who literally talk about who they would marry if their wife died.) And although of course there will always be women with a similar motive, it's a known fact that it's more common with men. They feel like they "need" a woman, for multiple reasons. However, losing a loved one and later (at the right time) finding another whom you love just as much but in a completely different way (I don't ever like it when the previous one is 'replaced') can be a beautiful thing and, if done correctly, I sometimes like it in stories. Especially when both parties have lost someone in the past.

Wow, YOU'RE commenting on my blog?!?!?!?! Well isn't this a Frosty Friday!
Well, the term "get over" is entirely relative. Like Benwick, he kept up the appearance of being in grief for quite a while but then RANDOMLY is engaged to someone else. And so it often is. They're all sad and depressed until suddenly they're like, oh, look, here's another girl, I will go for HER instead.
And a breakup is also not necessarily what I'm talking about. Breakups happen a lot. :P And it might take men longer to get over them because they have wounded pride or something. ...yeah okay I won't go there.
Bottling their emotions doesn't really do with the subject at hand though. There's a difference between hiding what one is feeling, and forgetting your Clementine. Hahahahaha.

jessica prescott said...

Colonel Brandon is my personal favorite of all the JA heroes. No question. No competition. Although, I will certainly admit I didn't really "know" him very well either . . . UNTIL I saw David Morrissey's portrayal of him in S&S 08. And then I was like, "OH." He definitely made me understand the character a lot better . . . and I also just really, really loved him. So now he's my favorite. Always will be, too. :-)

Well, I hope you like my novel when it's finished :-) It's been a very "humbling" experience, if you know what I mean, to try and write about grief and loss the way I have--because (thankfully) that's something I've never had to go through myself. And I can see that it's really HARD. But at the same time, I want to help my characters get over it, and move on, and find love again. Because it's okay to do that.

Abby P said...

Hello Melody! I've tagged you on my blog, Lavender Spring. If you'd like to answer the questions (and they're totally optional), here is the address:
Have a lovely day!

Kristalyn said...

Never was a huge fan of Captain Wentworth until I saw the 2007 version. He still isn't one of the top 3 JA heroes on my list, but Rupert Penry-Jones did a suburb job at acting. And it does help that he's handsome ;)

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